Friday, September 30, 2011

They're Not Finished Yet

I have spent the last few days working in the high school in my town. I had mixed feelings when I accepted the shifts. I like teens and I think they are fascinating, bewildering, terrible, wonderful beings. I am frustrated and inspired by them. They have the ability to make me weep for their cruelty and shed a tear of pride for their compassion and empathy. They are a puzzle and yet they are simply nothing more then kids trying to grow up.

It was in this storm of inner conflict that I began my days as an EA in the high school and I have to say that I have really enjoyed these days I have spent mingling with the teenage masses. I could tell a dozen stories about moments that touched my heart or made me laugh over the last several days and maybe I will in the weeks to come but there is one thing that I think its important to say now; something that I was reminded of time and again this week.

Teens aren't finished yet.

They aren't finished growing, maturing, thinking, dreaming, messing up, succeeding, learning and loving. They have countless adventures, experiences and life lessons ahead of them. They are full of potential and possibility and it is our responsibility, as the adults in their world, to nurture, protect and enable their success. Its never too late to reach a kid, to make a difference in how they see their world, how they see themselves.

No matter their attitude, their words or their habits all it takes is one adult willing to give a kid the benefit of the doubt, willing to love them in spite of themselves and ready to give forgiveness before its asked for. All kids need one caring, enthusiastic adult to believe in them, hold them accountable and help them navigate through the minefield that is The Teen Years. Even the most belligerent, negative kid is capable of acts of compassion and vulnerability. I've seen it for myself. This week.

Teens need to know that within them, under all the things they don't like about themselves, is an amazing treasure and the most remarkable thing about that treasure is that it is not hidden by the things they don't like but wrapped up in it ... like a gift. Their greatness is inside of and because of all the things that they will grow through and learn from and if we, the adults, are smart enough, we'll stick around and help these fascinating, bewildering, terrible, wonderful beings walk through their life lessons. We will get to see the gift that they are before it is even discovered by them. And that is the real joy of investing a little of yourself in someone else.

I would so much like young people to have a sense of the gift that they are. Not many of them feel like that.

~ John Denver

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Terry's Legacy of Hope

Yesterday morning my kids got up, dressed in their favourite red and white Canada t-shirts, laced their running shoes and headed out for one of their favorite days of the school year ... Terry Fox Day!

The Terry Fox Run is one of the Fall highlights for my kids as it was for me when I was in school. I can remember setting out with my pals on a crisp September morning for a run around the neighborhood. As we trampled across the field and over lawns I remember thinking about what it must have been like for Terry to run all that way on those lonely highways. I wondered what kept him going, what made him get up and run 26 miles, a marathon, every day.

For those of you who may not know, Terry Fox was born in my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was a natural athlete, competing in distance running and basketball throughout high school and into college, but when he was 18 years old he was diagnosed with bone cancer which resulted in the amputation of his right leg. Not even cancer and the loss of a limb could stop Terry from the thrill of competition once he recovered, though. He went on to win three national championships in wheelchair basketball and he continued to distance run with the help of a prosthetic.

It was the combination of his love for sport and his love for people that first spark the idea of a marathon to raise money for cancer research. During his time of treatment, Terry saw the toll cancer took on patients and their families and vowed to do something to improve things. After a lot of planning, training and hoping Terry embarked on a cross Canada marathon ...a Marathon of Hope.

Terry made it more than 5,000 kilometers into his trek before cancer caught up with him and he was forced to abandon his run. He had raised 1.7 million dollars and national awareness for the need for more cancer research. A week after Terry stopped running and started battling cancer (the cancer had appeared in his lungs, causing breathing distress) CTV hosted a telethon, raising over 10 million dollars in five hours. Within 8 months of the telethon the amount donated in Terry's name had grown to over 23 million dollars.

Terry ultimately lost his battle with cancer in June of 1981 but he won the hearts and awakened the compassion of the world. Terry's Marathon of Hope started a global phenomenon that has raised more that 600 million dollars for cancer research. Terry has won many awards and accolades both before his death and after but I would wager that none of those titles and honours would mean as much to him as the strides made in cancer treatment and prevention since his Marathon of Hope 30 years ago.

Because of Terry Fox and his vision for the future my kids see that hope and spunk and perseverance trump illness and adversity every time. They see that when you put action to your dreams and carry hope in your heart you can make the impossible possible. They see all of this in Terry Fox, just as I did when I was a kid.

Thanks Terry, for teaching a generation and beyond what real hope and passion looks like. Here's to you and here's to a cancer free future!

It occurs very rarely in the life of a nation that the courageous spirit of one person unites all people in the celebration of his life and in the mourning of his death ... We do not think of him as one who was defeated by misfortune but as one who inspired us with the example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity
~Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau speaking in the House of Commons following the death of Terry Fox

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Upside of Being Socially Unaware

For all of the trials and challenges kids on The Spectrum have socially there is one really unique and spectacular thing a lot of these special kids have in common, they don't really see the difference between 'celebrities' or 'the popular people' and 'regular' people. To them everyone is the same. We're all just people. To them, everyone deserves to be respected and heard on the basis of who they are ... social standing has nothing to do with anything. That's why, I think, there are so many stories of these kids doing extraordinary things, fearlessly asking for what they desire, because they don't feel the same social constraints that most of us 'normal' people do.

Neuro-typical people (NT, 'normal' folks) tend to put people in a hierarchy of popularity or success. We do it subconsciously most of the time. We meet someone, hear about what they do for a living, see how they are dressed or hear of their accomplishments and we score them. Subsequent people we meet get scored and mentally placed in order. Its this societal order that gives us the jitters when we are interacting with someone 'above' our score or place in the world but since people on the Autism Spectrum don't understand social subtleties, like pecking orders, they can move against the grain, outside of the bonds of what is expected. They can, and do, just look at the individual for who and what they are.

The most remarkable thing about this free-floating socializing is the way people respond to it. Because there is so obviously no guile, ulterior motives or other questionable strings attached to these interactions the requests or invitations of friendship extended to the 'celebrity' is often accepted at face value. Most people see the honest interest and respond in a completely open way.

I have seen and heard stories of these amazing kids being welcomed on to sports teams, movie sets, university research labs and even the White House ... just because they asked. They have seen someone or something that has interested them and they have taken that leap of faith that so many of us would avoid. They have assumed that people are just people and if they are able to say 'yes' they will and if they can't, its nothing personal. There is very little fear of rejection in these moments and it is a magical thing to see.

Admittedly, there is some frustration, heartache and disappointment that goes along with this kind of openness but more times than not I have seen and heard of amazing opportunities open up just because one little kid with Autism asked.

Here are a couple of links to articles and a video that depicts exactly what I'm talking about ... take a minute to read about one of the few perks of being socially unaware!

Did you hear the one about the Autistic kid and Jeff Dunham?

For the Love of the Game

I've shown this video before ... but it never gets old!

There are so many things that I am proud of Dude for doing and being but nothing touches my heart more than when he sees and responds to a person rather than a position or a status. I love how he sees opportunity for friendship and learning in every person he meets and most of all, I love how he honours the unique and special in each of his friends because to him, "we are all just people but we are all so different and I like that about us."

“The essence of our effort to see that every child has a chance must be to assure each an equal opportunity, not to become equal, but to become different - to realize whatever unique potential of body, mind and spirit he or she possesses”

John Fischer quotes

Monday, September 26, 2011

Big C and little c

Big C has little c ... my Dad, Big C, has cancer, little c.

We found out several weeks ago but we've been processing things and trying to figure out what this all means for him, for us, for our future, for our family. We've all bounced back and forth between hope and fear, optimism and dread, disbelief and harsh reality. We have lived in the land of uncertainty, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst ... whatever that is.

The early days after the diagnosis were stressful. We knew very little other than the lump Dad had removed was a tumour after all and he needed more tests. All we knew for sure was that Dad had cancer and cancer is bad.

We all experienced some complicated emotions in the weeks that followed as Dad went for more tests, scans and doctor's appointments, while we were waiting to find out exactly what we're dealing with. What I realised in those long, drawn out weeks is that the doctor can't tell us what we're dealing with. He can tell us what type of lymphoma my dad has, what the recommended course of treatment is and what the prognosis is, generally but he can't tell US what WE are dealing with. Only we know that answer.

I don't know exactly what my parents, my sister or my extended family was dealing with, I could make a pretty good guess based on their reactions, but I couldn't tell you exactly. I can only tell you what I was and still am dealing with. I have dealt with disbelief, anger, frustration, fear and denial. Dealt with. I discovered a couple of weeks ago that I can't live with those things, I can't live in them. All of the negative emotions, the fear based thoughts and reactions, drain my strength, my perspective and kill my hope and it is hope that I need.

This is such a complicated thing to write about, to live through. This isn't our first dance with cancer though. My mom had cervical cancer when I was ten years old. And although I don't remember much from that time in our life I do remember my mom's friend, Helen, saying good night to me on the night of my mom's surgery and telling me that hope is the thing we hold on to when it seems like we're all alone. Hope is the thing we know for sure.

There is no protocol for how you should feel about this kind of diagnosis, how best to process and deal with the threat of Pain, Suffering and Death looming at your doorstep. No one can tell you definitively that if you do This, This and This then the cancer will go away, your fear will flee and your life will be filled with butterflies and rainbows. There is no guidebook for this and I am not qualified to write one but I will tell you that right now, in the middle of this little c story with Big C, that hope is the thing.

I don't know what comes next for my dad, we're told we just have to wait and see for now, but I know that the thing that will sustain us, that will carry us, that will protect us is hope. Hope and Faith.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
~Hebrew 11:1

Friday, September 23, 2011

What a Teacher Makes

I found this video last year and fell in love with it. I love that Taylor Mali, the poet who wrote these words and passionately speaks them, 'gets' the value, the purpose, of his role as a teacher.

I emailed this video link to the principals at my kids' schools along with the paragraph that follows, asking them to show this video to the staff ... feel free to do the same because even teachers need to know that they are seen, valued and honoured.

As a parent I want you to know that I honour you for the job you do each day ... that I respect you for the choice you made to make a difference rather than just make a buck. I am indebted to you for caring enough about my kids to correct them, instruct them and guide them every day. I love you for the extra time and effort you put into making your lessons interesting and engaging, the extra time that no one sees and you don't get credit for. I take comfort in knowing that this isn't 'just a job' for you or your colleagues, these wonderful, committed, caring and creative teachers, EAs, admin staff and custodians ... this is a life choice that has meaning. I want you to know that the moments you spend speaking into the lives of the kids who roam those halls every day will echo in eternity. I want you to know that I, as a parent, am grateful for you.

The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called "truth."
~Dan Rather

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Notes on Potty Training Boys

I spent some time recently with a friend of mine who is in the midst of potty training her son. Although I am well past those hectic days of potty runs and near misses I can clearly remember the stress and frustration that went along with those potty training days. Changing diapers wasn't my favourite thing to do but it wasn't the worst either. The worst was continually being on high alert in case of a potty emergency. The worst was scouting out bathrooms everywhere we went, asking 'do you need the potty?' every five minutes and doing a mad dash across church, malls and parks while carrying your crying, peeing toddler as onlookers gawk and try to avoid the stream of urine you leave streaming behind you.

That was the worst.

Each of my kids learned the potty thing in their own time and in their own way but I have to say that potty training a boy is a different thing all together than training a girl. I don't think one gender is easier than the other, just different. Here are a few notes for those of you about to or in the midst of potty training your boy. These are lessons I've learned the hard way ... I hope you'll have an easier 'go' of things!

1.   The Gravity of the Situation - One morning I met my friends at Tim Horton's for a coffee before we took our kids over to the library for story time. As my pal was in line, placing her order, her little guy, Robbie started doing the pee pee dance. I offered to take the newly potty trained, three year old Robbie to the bathroom. Once we were in the stall he told me that he was a 'sitter' so I helped him up onto the toilet and asked him if he was good to go, he gave me the thumbs up and let it loose.

What happened next was something I had never experienced before in all my years of babysitting, nannying and motherhood. Robbie turned into Old Faithful. A golden stream of urine was jetting out from between his legs and splattering all over me and him and the bathroom stall. Not knowing what to do, I picked the still peeing Robbie up, flipped him over and pointed his rogue stream toward the toilet.

LESSON LEARNED ... What goes up must come down and gravity can only get you so far when you are dealing with boy parts. Point the pee-pee down before you let it fly!

2.   The Standing vs. Sitting Debate - By the time Dude was three and a half he could construct impressive Lego buildings, identify more than a dozen different types of dinosaurs and knew every line from every Veggie Tales video made at the time. He was smart, there was no disputing that, but the boy could not figure out that whole potty thing.

I had a friend who had four sons and she trained them all to sit when they peed, she said it was easier and there was far less mess. So, trusting her experience and wishing to avoid the dreaded pee-pee mess, I attempted to train Dude the same way. No dice. He hated sitting on the potty, he thought the splash cone was going to cut his penis and he didn't like the feel of the seat. Once we did finally fight/bribe him to sit down on the potty he had no idea what he was expected to do there.

One day Mr. Awesome said that enough was enough and he took the kid into the bathroom with him and shut the door, it was a 'No Mommy Zone.' I busied myself in the kitchen while the boys did their thing. After a couple of minutes I heard Little Dude exclaim, "That's what I do?!" A 'stander' was created and the rest is history.

LESSON LEARNED ... Seeing is better than telling and Lysol wipes are invaluable when you have a three year old 'stander'.

3.   The Perils of Number 2 - The problem with teaching your boy to be a 'stander' is that not all things can be done standing. About two months after Dude mastered the art of peeing we went on vacation. At this point he was still letting us know when he had to Go 2 so we could help him but one morning, while staying at my cousin's house, he decided he could do it himself. Mr. Awesome and I were laying on the bed with the bathroom door open so we could help him if he needed it but we soon got distracted with Baby Crafty. It wasn't until I happened to glance over to see if Dude was done yet that I realised we had a problem. While Dude was standing to pee he had made a little 2 Pile. That was a one time event, an accident, but with Mischief it was a whole different ball game!

Mischief would not Go 2 on the potty. He has always been a PJ boy, and his M.O. for dealing with The 2 was to hide in closets or behind furniture to do his thing and then tell us he went 'somewhere'. We would then have to call a 'Poop Hunt' and everyone would search all of his favourite spots until someone found the deposit so it could be cleaned up. This phase lasted for a couple of months until we 'consequenced' it out of him (he had to get dressed with underwear and button up pants everyday until this Go 2 on the Go stopped ... a fate worse than death for The PJ Kid!).

LESSON LEARNED ... Sitting has its perks and  Lysol wipes are invaluable when you have a three year old Poop Runner.

4.   The Attention Deficit Dilemma - The best thing about potty training Mischief is that once we got the Go 2 under control, life was a breeze. Right from the start this kid has had amazing bladder capacity. We could spend an afternoon running errands without having to stop for a bathroom break once! Its actually quite impressive. The problem came when we got home and he finally 'went'. His bladder capacity was greater than his ability to stay focused resulting in frequent incidents of spillage.

We tried everything! Cheerios in the toilet, pictures on the wall, more frequent potty stops ... nothing worked. The boy had the Austin Powers Pee Gene and the attention span of a goldfish and there was nothing we could do about it. We would walk by the bathroom in the morning and see the kid leaning against the wall, peeing while looking more bored than you could imagine. We would hear him occasionally exclaim, 'Why is this taking so long?!' but there's nothing we could do until we tapped into his competitive side.

We had him start counting how long each pee took and asking him if he had broken his last record yet. That way he was practising his counting and staying focused on the task at hand, so to speak.

LESSON LEARNED ...  Boys will compete for any title and  Lysol wipes are invaluable when you have a three year old Pee Champion.

5.   We Don't Do That Here! - The one perk to potty training that the boys picked up on right away was the freedom to Go anywhere, anytime. Almost. In those early Diaper Free days, (Who are we kidding? We still have these conversations from time to time!) we had to have frequent chats about the appropriateness of where and when. A tree in Auntie Char's country yard is okay, the display toilets in Home Depot are not okay. A mile road during a five hour drive is okay, Pier One parking lot on a pre-Christmas Saturday afternoon is not okay. A ditch on the way to the lake is okay, the garden in front of the school is not okay.

We also had to have a talk about how many streams can reasonably flow into the same toilet at the same time. Before Mischief started school my friends and I would meet at each other's houses for coffee after we dropped the older kids off at school on Friday mornings. The moms would sit around and chat over coffee and the kids (mostly boys) would super hero their way around the house for a couple of hours.

At one such coffee morning we noticed that the house was unnaturally quiet. My friend went to investigate what the boys were up to. Turns out they were attempting a group pee session. She broke up the pee party and told the boys they'd have to take turns. In case you're wondering an average toilet can handle three pee streams fine, four is inviting a mess!

LESSON LEARNED ...  Lysol wipes are invaluable when you have a three year old boy ... PERIOD!

The way i figure it, peer pressure will get to them in Junior High and then they'll use the toilet. Until then I'm not going to worry about it too much.
~Some Random Mother

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Here's to the Working Girls!

I haven't been around here much lately because I'm working. I am covering a reception gig while someone is on vacation. Its half days and everyone in the office is great. I'm really enjoying myself.

When I accepted the job I thought, 'Halfdays, no big deal. I can work in the mornings and do all my regular stuff in the afternoons. Easy!' Wrong! Its not easy and I must applaud you working moms.

I am only a week into working and already we are starving, have no clean clothes and live in a house that's a step away from being a hoarder's paradise. I can't remember the last time I did a load of laundry, went grocery shopping or cleaned a bathroom. Our front entrance has become a graveyard of school papers, broken jackets and lunchtime leftovers and don't even get me started on the condition of my kitchen!

I know that the world is full of working parents who balance home life and work life but I've never had to do it, I have no system and frankly my family is less than helpful with picking up the slack. I have the stay-at-home mom thing down pretty well. I have a routine, a schedule and I'm pretty good at juggling the things that go along with being a SAH but this working thing is a totally different monster!

There is a pay off with both and a definite downside to both as well. As a SAH I have a few hours to myself everyday. True, I have to fill those solitary hours with glamorous tasks like grocery shopping, laundry and bathroom cleaning but at least its quiet and I can get things done. the downside is that domestic chores don't give me that much fulfillment, I get lonely for adult contact and my days can stretch out before me like a desert wasteland of sameness if I don't actively pursue opportunities to volunteer and participate in things I enjoy.

As a working girl I get to be with adults, have real meaningful conversations and have a real sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. I get to wear nice clothes, use my brain on something more than Lego assembly and I have something interesting to talk about at the end of the day. The negative to this duel track working mom life is that after a day of working I still have all the regular mom stuff to do but with less time and more interruptions.

My mom was a working mom for most of my growing up years and more than that she also was a part time student for many years. I remember her spending her evenings and weekends juggling studying with being a mom and although I was too young to think of it then as an adult I have often wondered how she did it. How did she do everything?

In the edges of my memories I can see the secret to her success ... my dad. He cooked, cleaned, took us to the park, made sure the school notes were signed and lunches made when my mom couldn't. He tucked us in at night and woke us up in the morning. He did so much of the day to day stuff so that when mom had a few minutes where she wasn't working or studying she was able to spend it with us ... just being our mom. He was the first Mr. Awesome.

My Mr. Awesome has been unbelievable these last couple of weeks. Not only has he been doing all of his regular Awesomeness but he has also gone above and beyond. He has helped me to plan and execute a major fundraiser and a huge school event. He has BBQed for a couple of hundred people, ran a zillion errands, picked kids up, dropped them off, made lunches, cooked dinner and a thousand other little things. he has made me look good these last few weeks ... well, these last 14 years, to tell the truth.

He's my pal, my partner and the reason I can do all I do ... thanks, Mr. Awesome!

So here's to the Working Girls and all the Mr. Awesomes who pitch in, pick up the slack and are man enough to be a domestic goddess! Here's to us!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What Doesn't Change

Here's the deal, Crafty was assessed by a doctor a few weeks ago and she is on the Autism Spectrum. Crafty has Asperger's.

There. I've said it. I don't know why but in the days following the assessment and diagnosis I was nervous, scared for her, for me. I was worried that this little word, this diagnosis that I know so well, was going to change things for Crafty.

It's a funny thing, this diagnosis, it changes absolutely nothing about who she is but yet somehow it does. When Dude was diagnosed four years ago it came as a relief, like an answer to the world's most puzzling mystery, "What is wrong with my kid?!" Turns out nothing was wrong with him, he just has Asperger's. With Dude the diagnosis was a direction of travel, it was really no big deal. So why was I having such a tough time processing all of this with Crafty?

All of a sudden, I was worrying about things I've never worried about when it comes to my girl. I worried about her friends, her future, her heart. She seemed more vulnerable, more at risk for hurt. I knew it wasn't true, I knew that she was just as strong and capable as she was before the diagnosis but ... there I was, worried.

In my fretting, I decided to make a list of everything that doesn't change in light of this diagnosis ...

1. She's witty, funny with impeccable timing
2. She is creative, arts & craft-y
3. She is caring
4. She is strong
5. She is loving
6. She is compassionate
7. She is a hard worker
8. She desires to do well all the time
9. She's a little mischievous
10. She worries
11. She has an excellent vocabulary
12. She loves to help
13. She is sensitive
14. She wants to be friendly and have friends
15. She has her own sense of style
16. She's independent
17. She's a reader
18. She has a fantastic laugh
19. Her eyes twinkle when she's hatching a plan
20. She is growing up too fast

My list went on and on ... over one hundred things that don't change because she has Asperger's. I also made a list of the things that do change because of Asperger's

1. We know better how to help her
2. ...

That's about it. When I looked at my two lists I exhaled and found my bearings. Everything's going to be all right. Nothing has changed. I'm not sure what got me worked up in the first place but I guess everyone's allowed a little crazy every now and then ... and some of us more than others! ;-)

Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere. ~Glenn Turner

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Doing is Better than Being

This has been a busy week so far and its only Wednesday!

We have been running and doing every minute of the last week. Mr. Awesome has worked late, the kids are adjusting to the new school year, I have been getting back into the swing of ... well, everything. I am juggling homework, school meetings, volunteering, working, writing, gymnastics, girl guides, curling, doctor's appointments, reading (for work), reading (for fun) and all the millions of other little things that come up in the daily life of a mom. On top of all this we are in the home stretch of our Random Acts of Service Challenge so we have all been busy crafting, painting and planning for our fundraiser this weekend.

Frankly, I'm exhausted and its only Wednesday, only September, only the second week of school!

In the midst of all this I had the opportunity to help someone who needed it today. I was in the right place, at the right time and I was asked to help out someone who is new in our town. To be honest, when I was first asked my mind flashed through the 8 million things I have to do before Saturday and I hesitated for a second. I still had to go shopping for the pancake breakfast, prep for more painting tonight, buy frames for our art work, prep for tomorrow's project, make a banner for the fundraiser and the list goes on and on. I'm too busy!

I'm too busy helping people to ... help people? Seriously?!

I shoved the list to the back of my mind and agreed to help ... and it was the best part of my day. I still have a lot of stuff to get done to help the kids in Africa, the kids in the hospitals and their families but taking the time to help one real person face to face, to hear her story and see her relief that someone cared enough to show up made my day. It reminded me that in all those busy moments of trying to do good I can't lose sight of the importance of actually doing good.

Being good is commendable, but only when it is combined with doing good is it useful. ~Author Unknown

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Say It Out Loud

This morning a friend had a conversation with her kids on the way to school. They were talking about behaviour and choices. She, like many of us, has had similar conversations in the past in an effort to get her kids to understand how every decision we make has a consequence but this morning was different. This morning she hit upon something, a truth, that they had never heard before. She tilted the conversation and looked at this issue from a different angle.

"How different would your choices be if they were said out loud and in front of those you love? For example, I am thinking I will start doing drugs, I am going to flirt with another man other than your dad, I will closet eat, going to look at pornography today, Today I plan on lying to you ... "

When I heard about this conversation I was stunned. I had never thought about my behaviour in this light before. I had never stopped to think about how much of my life would be affected, how many things I would change, if I had to declare my actions and intentions first.

When Dude was wee he used to give us a moment by moment account of his actions, "I am playing with the red car. I am going to have a drink of water. I am building a tower. I am going pee." We used to tell him all the time it wasn't necessary to tell us every little thing he was doing but maybe it is?

It comes down to accountability, right? If we all realised that we really are accountable for our actions, for the impact our decisions have on those around us would we still lie, cheat, gossip and steal? If we were required to say aloud our intentions before our actions would we still follow through?

I'm going to try something today. Just for the next twenty four hours I am going to say out loud what I am about to do, especially if my actions will affect someone else. I don't need an audience, I think hearing the words and the projected consequence will be enough for me, enough to make me stop and think about the big picture. I am going to be accountable to myself, no more lying, cheating, stealing or hiding from me ... I am going to shine a light into my own heart, even if I don't like what I might see hiding in there.

I'm going to say it, see it and change it. I'm going to say it out loud ... will you?

While we are free to chose our actions we are not free to chose the consequences of our actions.
~Stephen R. Covey

Thanks L.H.

Monday, September 12, 2011

More than Just Numbers

This past weekend was a big weekend. It was the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks against the US in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

On September 11, 2001 I sat on my living room couch in our small basement apartment and watched the events of the morning unfold. Dude was 18 months old I was pregnant with Crafty. Mr. Awesome was working in Northern Manitoba and as soon as I heard about the first plane I called him to see if he was watching the news. We sat on the phone together for more than three hours, mostly in stunned silence as we watched plane hit building, people running into the streets, people jumping from buildings and finally, we watched as the World Trade Centre fell.

2, 977 people died that day. Office workers, delivery people, tourists, police officers, fire fighters, rescue workers ... people just going about their days, doing their jobs. People who never suspected that September 11, 2001 would be their last day. People we never knew but people we'll never forget.

This weekend was also a big deal for this Random Family because we took part in Dragonboat Races. Mr. Awesome is on a Dragonboat Team, Blew By U. He spends the year rasing money with his teammates for the Canadian Cancer Society and every year on the weekend after September long weekend he races for a cure. 130 teams participate in this weekend. Its a competition but it is also a weekend to celebrate those who have fought, won and lost battles with cancer.

In 2011, it is predicted that 70,000 people in Canada will die from cancer and cancer related illness. More than 170,00 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Office workers, delievery people, teachers, bus drivers, rescue personnel, mothers, fathers, friends, children ... people we know ... people we love ... people we will never forget.

As we stood on the banks of Lake Shirley on Sunday afternoon and paid tribute to those fighters we have all known and lost, I thought about the global televised event that was taking place at the same time, the 9/11 memorial service. I thought about the contrast, the millions of viewers commemorating 3,000 lives and the few hundred paddlers and spectators remembering the thousands of lives lost every years.

I'm not saying that there was anything wrong with the way any of those lives were remembered, the numbers just got to me. What got to me more was knowing that in a year from now the lives lost on 9/11/2001 will be the same but tens of thousand will be added to the number of lives that cancer has stolen.

If you want to help out, if you want to stand with those who are fighting personal cancer battles, if you want to be added to the list of cure-finders please give. Donate, Fundraise, Join a Team ...

Canadian Cancer Society

If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or fight like hell.
~Lance Armstrong

Friday, September 9, 2011

Say Something ... More

Since starting this blog more than a year ago I have become very aware that words, all words, carry weight. They make an impact, they have staying power and you can't take them back. What has been said cannot be unsaid and you, the sayer has no control of how those words will be interpreted by others ... I have learned that the hard way. Its for that reason that I measure, very carefully, what I say here.

I feel blessed that you all take a few minutes out of your busy day to check in to see what I have to say each day and I feel doubly blessed when I hear that you enjoyed the piece, that it made you think or touched your heart in some way. You have trusted me with a little portion of your day, a tiny corner of your mind and I want to make the most and the best of that opportunity.

When I started to think about this blog, this platform and all the other opportunities that have come from it I realised I had a choice to make about how I was going to use all of this, what kind of message I was going to send. Its so easy to be flippant, rude and negative; easy and usually funny, but did I want the cheap laughs or did I want to craft something more?

More takes work. More requires forethought, filtering and intention. More can be a mental drag but I knew I could not live with myself for long if I settled for less. What I didn't realize at first is that being more, saying more, doesn't have to be sappy, intense and serious all the time. More can be fun, light hearted and leave people feeling really good. More is just the thing that gives your words and actions intent and depth.

My pal, Urban Princess, posted this video on her blog for her day job. I'm stealing it and I'm putting a little challenge out there ... say something more. Today and in the days to come say something to someone that is just a little more and I would LOVE it if you left a comment here or on my facebook page (Some Random Mother on Facebook), something more for the other readers to enjoy. It can be as simple as a 'howdy' or as long as a favourite quote or song lyric ... something that will make someone smile and feel good about themselves today.

Always be a little kinder than necessary. ~James M. Barrie

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Day Jitters

Today is Christmas morning!

Its not, but it kind of is. Its almost the same thing though. You are full of anticipation in the days leading up to it, you get a bunch of clothes you didn't really want and before you know it its all over. It's the first day of school!

This Random Bunch handled the morning like champs. Everyone got up and did their thing and made it school on time; no tears, no fuss ... let's hope everyday goes this smoothly. Dude sauntered into the middle school like a pro, flipping his golden locks as he passed a group of seventh grade girls who were hanging out by the door. Crafty found a gaggle of girls and they cackled their way into their classrooms as soon as the bell rung and Mischief gave me kisses and said good bye at least half a dozen times. I think he forgot he was just going into grade two and not off to war!

This year was more of the same for my crew but my cousin's son is entering the unknown world of high school this year. This morning C shaped his faux-hawk, grabbed an armload of binders and marched himself into the hormone crazed hallways of High School. I can't believe it! I can't believe that that chubby little baby, that sweet toddler boy, that mischievous little guy has grown into this funny, generous, confident and kind pre-man! I'm sure he'll do great today!

I remember my first day of high school. I was so worried that I wouldn't know anyone and I would be condemned to wander the halls alone for all eternity ... but it all worked out, eventually. I think the key was calming down enough to make a decent first impression. I was very careful to not let all my dorkdom out at once and I think that helped. But sometimes, when you are making a first impression, its not your dorkiness you have to worry about ... its your family's!

Hope your first day was better than this poor guy's, C!

Happy First Day of School, Everyone!

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You!
~Dr. Suess

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

And There it Was ... Gone

Summer, that is.

Just two short months ago I was staring into the abyss of summer vacation and now its over. I have been annoying the kids for days now with my humming, dancing and general giddiness over the start of the new school year. They are sick of their new school supplies, indoor shoes and first day of school outfits and they haven't even used any of it yet! I can't help it ... I love this time of the year!

I have to admit that there is a bit of false bravado in all my joy, though. As happy as I am to get back into a routine and have a little more time to myself I will miss those lazy days of summer ... well, some of them at least (I will not miss the hot ones!). I loved our sleep ins, movie marathons, backyard antics and late nights around the bonfire. I will miss having my buddies around to keep me company, make me laugh and make me stop and enjoy life a little more. I know I'll be a little lonely but it'll be a good kind of lonely.

 As of this afternoon all of the kids have been to school, met their teachers and dropped off their school supplies. Each one approached these transition days with a very different attitude from the others. Mischief was excited to be with all his pals again. His whole class is moving to grade two together, same teacher, same friends, new classroom; all the good and none of the bad, as he said this morning.

Crafty was a little more cautious. She has a new teacher and only a couple of her pals from last year are in her class this year. I expected her to be a little pessimistic when I picked her up at the end of her day but she wasn't. She was excited about her teacher and for some of the new things that will be happening this year.

Dude was less than thrilled about the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. He declared that his transition meeting was "so not worth putting proper pants on for" and grumbled about how he didn't get to do anything fun this summer. Don't get the wrong idea, the kid really likes his teacher, is looking forward to seeing his pals and doesn't mind the idea of learning ... he just wishes he could do all of that from the comfort of his bedroom or better yet, poolside.

Whatever their feelings about the school year are right now I know this for sure, they are all growing and changing so fast. I marvel at the people they are becoming and I celebrate the confidence and independence they are attaining. I also celebrate the school doors closing behind them tomorrow morning at 9 am!

Labor Day is a glorious holiday because your child will be going back to school the next day. It would have been called Independence Day, but that name was already taken.
~Bill Dodds

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Parental Discretion

When I was a kid I wasn't allowed to watch Smurfs or Carebears. I also wasn't allowed to watch ET, Gremlins and Goonies. We didn't have video games, pop music or gossip magazines in our house. I couldn't decorate my room with posters of TV stars or my favourite bands ... it was all animal pictures and inspirational quotes for me.

At the time I just thought my parents liked to say no all the time but now that I am a parent I get what they were trying to do. They were trying to protect my heart and mind. They were trying to keep my a child rather than allowing me to rush headlong into adolescents before my time. They were attempting to set boundaries and frame what is acceptable so that when I did become a teen I could make more right decisions for myself.

Mr. Awesome and I have spent a lot of time trying to find the right balance for our kids. We don't want to raise them in a bubble but we also want them to run wild. We have narrowed down our parameters of acceptable behaviour, talk and respect and have reigned in the outside influences accordingly. We know, that for our kids, most of the shows on a popular channel for families are not appropriate. The disrespect to adults, hyper-dating undertones and insult flinging is just more than our kids need to be exposed to right now so we encourage them to watch movies or science based shows like the ones on Discovery channel.

That's what lead to this conversation...

Gran - (hearing gunshots coming from the TV in the next room) What is Dude watching in there?

Random One - Something on Discovery (I listen for a second) sounds like Sons of Guns.

Gran -  (slightly appalled) Why is he watching that?

Random One - Because he's not allowed to watch Zac and Cody.

Gran - he's not allowed to watch ... but he's allowed to watch ... oh my, this is one for the blog!

Seriously, I know that the kids will bend the rules when we're not looking, heck, they'll even break a few along the way. I did. I watched Smurfs at a friends house, hid NKOTB tapes in my heat vent and had pictures of Tommy Puett and Wil Wheaton behind the kitten posters. The thing is, when the important moments came, the smoking, drinking, dating moments I knew what to do. I knew what I wanted to do, what my parents expected me to do, because of all of the other conversations we had had about standards and boundaries. I made the right decisions for me because I was prepared.

So, I hope all the conversations we have with the kids now about good attitudes, dating readiness and peer pressure pay off in the years to come. More than that, I hope all of these conversations set the path and open the door for tougher conversations in the future. I hope that our kids get used to talking to us about things that matter so that it will be second nature to come to mom and dad when we hit the big league issues.

I hope ...

PS - I never did watch ET, Mom ... that was your other kid! :-)

The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering.
~Benjamin Spock, Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care

Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's No Big Deal

Every summer since Dude was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome we have written a 'book' about what Asperger's is and what it means to him. At first I used it as a tool for him to better understand what this diagnosis meant to him but now we use it as an introduction to new teachers and as a way of marking his development.

Last night, Dude and I sat down to finish off his 2011 book. This year we modelled after an Important Book. I asked him to list off ten things that he felt were important about him. He mentioned his family, friends and pets then he rattled off his favorite school subject, toy, movie and food. Then he added Asperger's and ADHD to his list.

We often talk about Asperger's but we hardly ever discuss ADHD. He knows that's part of the deal with him and he is an active participant in deciding whether medication works for him and how much but we rarely tell other people about it. The few times I have mentioned it I have found very strong opinions tossed back at me. People are very firm about their stance on ADHD being over diagnosed and that medication is an unnecessary and dangerous crutch schools use so they don't have to deal with active kids.

We disagree.

Maybe there is an element of unnecessary diagnosis and medication but for us ADHD is a real thing. Dude has struggled for years with his inability to focus and control his impulses. When he was seven years old he would cry, heart broken, that he had done something impulsively that he didn't really want to do. he would cry and cry and say he wanted to die. That's when, after a long conversation with his specialist, that we decided medication may be appropriate for him.

Under the doctor's supervision and with a lot of feedback from Dude we eventually found the meds and the dosage that works for him. His performance in school and his ability to make and maintain friendship has seen an unbelievable improvement. He feels so much better about himself, more confident and in control, more 'normal'.

Even though we don't make a big deal about ADHD or the medication, like I said, we don't talk about it so I was surprised when he included it in the list of important things. When I asked him if he was sure about adding that section in the book he said he was.

"I have ADHD, its no big deal. I take a pill every day to slow my brain down so I don't feel out of control, no big deal. It's like Asperger's, it's just part of what makes me me. Sometimes I like my fast brain but not when I'm at school or around people I don't know so I take my pill and it helps. No big deal."

I couldn't have been more proud or more in awe of him in that moment. I didn't realize how hung up I was about that part of his diagnosis until then. In my mind I was making a bigger deal of ADHD and the meds than I needed too. I was letting other people's opinions and flippant remarks affect me but Dude hit the nail on the head. Everything he said is true, ADHD and our decision to give him medication to help the part of ADHD that bothers him is just a part of who he is just like Asperger's, Lego, Science and his huge heart.

It's no big deal.

Acceptance is not love. You love a person because he or she has lovable traits, but you accept everybody just because they're alive and human.
~Albert Ellis